It was a harsh night. Wind slammed against doors, shutters, and the grand house in general, rain pattering on the Victorian shingles and seeming to almost break the window panes. A cold air stood stagnant in each room of the manor like thick lake water, seeping into Dr. Armstrong's lungs and heart as he blew smoke from his mouth.
His mind certainly wasn't on the draft, although if allowed to be, it could be a trifling distraction. His mind was on the events of last night as well as this morning. It wasn't four hours ago that he had examined Mrs. Roger's corpse for maladies or drugs, and the conclusion was baffling but he knew if he didn't solve the matter soon, he was going to lose the others' trust as a doctor as well as a man. He let out a sigh and leaned forward on the terrace's rail, staring into the murky ocean's depths.
"What are you doing out here, doctor?"
The voice was like a brick hurled at his chest, making his heart skip a beat as if plunged into the sea below. He turned, ready for the murderer to launch an attack, but relaxed as he saw who the sweet, honeyed voice belonged to. Standing behind him, just inside the house's safety was Miss Vera Claythorne, of course looking beautiful. Her dress blew around her ankles, her coat (that Armstrong noticed belonged to Lombard) was wrapped tightly around her thin, graceful shoulders.
She looked like an angel. Armstrong's mouth went dry as he turned back to the rocks below.
"Simply thinking, Miss Claythorne. About…"
"This morning?" She finished accurately, stepping in her heels to stand next to the doctor. It was obvious that she was thinking about the same thing…her eyes held the same confused glimmer that the doctor's did.
The latter nodded, preferring this over verbally replying, at least for now. The two stood in silence for several minutes, each having their share of sighing and fidgeting, when at last Armstrong spoke out, breaking the storm's silence like a knife and looking sideways at the woman beside him. "I could have done something, you know. I could have administered a different drug…any other drug. I could have saved Marston."
"You did all that you could, doctor, and that's good enough for the rest of us." She didn't smile, but her tone suggested a certain form of quiet, hidden sympathy that Armstrong could just barely make out. It would have been harder to find if he hadn't been looking for it.
He smiled in a troubled fashion. "That's kind of you to say, but very obligatory, I think."
"You think I don't mean what I'm saying?"
"I didn't say that."
Vera sighed, looking at the man with sad, kind eyes. She digested what he said for a few seconds, debating her next action, but soon deciding. She stepped to him and wrapped her thin arms around the man, embracing him in a tight hug, ignoring the jacket whipping from her shoulders with the absence of anchor.
The doctor's eyes widened with surprise, but eventually found himself embracing her back, gradually getting tighter as he felt more secure. He rested his face on her shoulder, breathing deeply and relaxing as they shared warmth. She did the same, tears freely rolling down her fair cheeks and into the man's coat.
"I'm so scared, Edward," Vera whispered into the doctor's chest, her fists clenching around bunches of his outer layer of clothing as she cried on. "I don't want to die here. Not now."
"I'll protect you with every ounce of my being, Vera," he replied softly, shutting his eyes tightly against the fiery wind. He never wanted to leave this moment….it felt like a dream, a wonderful dream that would simply vanish when awoken. A single tear fell from his eye. "I promise. As long as I'm alive, I'll protect you."
It wasn't long before Vera's arms moved to Armstrong's neck, pulling him down slightly and pressing her lips to his. The storm, the wind, the rain, the crashing of waves underneath them melted away as the kiss wore on. Both felt so right, so perfectly content that neither wanted to let go…
Until Vera did. She pushed away from the doctor, tears staining her beautiful face and breaking Armstrong's heart with every second. "I--I'm sorry, Edward. I can't…"
Armstrong cleared his throat after looking sadly at her with an expression of longing and pain, then stepping back and straightening his coat. "It's alright, Miss Claythorne. I shouldn't have imposed." He sighed and rubbed his temple, his eyebrows still expressing his disappointment. "We have a murderer to locate, we can't muck it up with…"
"Exactly my point," Vera replied hurriedly, brushing a stray piece of hair behind her ear and casting her soft gaze down to the floor at her left. "It was silly of us to think…"
Not another moment was spent in awkward silence. The creaking of a door sounded as Vera hurriedly slipped back inside, then closing the door before Armstrong reached for the knob. He watched as the woman was instantly greeted by Lombard and Blore, each offering her a towel and another one of their jackets once they observed her shivering. But he had a feeling that her trembling wasn't because of the rain. His gaze turned to a glare as they did so.
He wouldn't go back inside. He wouldn't be able to stand being inside, especially not with Vera… Not now. Aggression was too high, nerves were too on edge to be like this… So on Armstrong stood with a heavy sigh, wishing for what he obviously couldn't have and regretting every minute of it. And when that murderer came… His fists clenched tightly, his glare hardening in just moments. When that murderer came, he'll kill him. He'll kill him without thinking twice.